What every sailor must know about sailing and sustainability

The impact of sailing on nature

Probably this does not come as a surprise to you: The impact you have on the places you visit is simply huge. Especially when you travel in a way that is not as nicely facilitated as staying in a holiday resort. Like sailing. Some call it environmental impact, some call it a footprint. Whatever it is called, if you are the one causing it, you can also be the one to avoid it.

We at Moorspots are very happy that this topic gets more and more attention around the world. It is a topic close to our hearts and we know for many of you as well. However, even though there are a lot great initiatives going on to raise awareness and to give advice, we noticed that it is difficult to find what you can actually do from day to day. The simple and actionable things.

That is why I wrote this blog. Because everyone who reads this also leaves a footprint on the world, whether you are cruising around the globe or chartering a boat for a sailing holiday. I hope you enjoy reading it.

What is the problem?

It is quite obvious that sailing is a great way of getting from one place to another in a sustainable way. Making use of the wind instead of fossil fuel is a no brainer. But there is more to it than just saving diesel. Think of the fresh water we use and the waste we produce. And in that waste lies the bigger part of the problem. During our recent sailing trip in Turkey we found a lot of waste on the beaches near Nečujam and Stomorska where we wanted to spend a good afternoon swimming. We have spoken to sailors that sailed across the region of Central Dalmatia who had similar experiences.

The coastal areas in the Mediterranean Sea can be pretty busy, and there are reports that show that after the dip in sailing charters, the numbers of sailboats are increasing rapidly again. Nowadays it is no exception anymore to see overcrowded marinas or anchorages. And although the crews of these boats may not the biggest contributor to the waste issue, they are usually not yet part of the solution either. Last year, during the summer period of 2018, the amount of litter on Mediterranean beaches tripled. Which is a big problem for the local society as well as for marine life.

Less visible but equally worrying is the water quality. Although the swimming water in most of the coastal areas is of good quality the actual pollution level of the Mediterranean sea is quite disturbing. Did you know that it is known as one of the most polluted areas in the world? A relatively new challenge came on top of that: the formation of microplastics. Surprisingly, the most polluted areas are found in the waters of the UK.

The most known effects of the waste in the oceans is that of plastics (the infamous Plastic Soup) that decays into microplastics over time. Research done over the past few years shows that the situation is worse than many of us expected. Initiatives like the The Ocean Cleanup are needed to help slow down, reduce or even eliminate this problem. And although criticizers will say that this is only fighting the symptoms and not the decease, it must be done. Together we need to fight the cause and the symptoms at the same time.

It is truly a worldwide issue that affects everyone around the globe. Great initiatives are unfolding in all parts of the world. A strong example is the that of the ASA. Being aware of the impact sailing has on the coastal waters, the American Sailing Association started the plastic pollution purge. Be inspired by it!

What is being done?

There are also a few very inspiring initiatives from enthusiastic sailors and bloggers that want to create awareness and offer solutions. Personally I can spend my whole weekend reading about the cool things they are doing. If you are interested as well, here some great links:

Two Dutch Guys sailing around the world searching for sustainable solutions

Meet the Woman Sailing Around the World to Raise Awareness About Plastic Pollution

Sailing – The newest way to travel sustainably

Sustainable eco-tourism

Some governments also take action and give advice on how to reduce the impact your boat has on the environment. For example the government of Jersey. Hopefully this motivates more of us to act and we would love to see much more of this in the future.

Transformation to a healthy seas and oceans

What can you do to help?

Quite a lot actually. But let’s keep it simple:  I am going to give everyone who is spending time on the water a very simple and very rewarding challenge:

Leave the spots you visit in a better shape than you found them

This means: Bring more (plastic) waste back than you came with from the beach, the anchorage or the forest that you visit.

It is Moorspots number one ambition: Letting everyone enjoy the best sailing spots in the world, while making these places better, nicer and cleaner. Here are some more ideas and inspirations on how you can do that in preparation, during and after a sailing trip. Relevant for both cruisers and for sailors that charter a boat. The thinking behind it is that you make use of the local “Eco-systems” for all your sailing needs and consider your options with each decision you have to make. Here we go:

  1. Which charter company? Ask information on where they are located, check the website and the reviews. Check if the boat is or can be equipped with solar panels and a wind generator. Someone who can help you finding a sustainable charter is Suzanne van der Veeken from The Oceanpreneur .
  2. Travelling to your starting point: let money saving and reducing your footprint go hand in hand. Consider travelling by sharing a car to reduce the emission of CO2 per head or think about compensating your CO2 emissions when travelling by plane.
  3. On the boat: Separate the waste in organic, recyclables and the rest. Make sure you rinse the recyclables with salt water to avoid uninvited organisms and smells. The organic waste can be thrown overboard but only when you are at least 12NM from the coast. So it will not disturb the coastal eco system. Also here The Oceanpreneur has great advice based on ocean crossing experiences.
  4. Prevent rubbish from ending up in the sea. Some great tips that start with the preparation of your trip can be found at Saltwest.
  5. Avoid the use of harmful anti-fouling and cleaning products as much as you can. This probably means repeating the cleaning more often than with traditional anti-fouling but it is worth the effort.
  6. Choose to eat sustainable sourced, local food. You can also catch your own fish from the sea, if you know a bit what you are doing. Check this blog about fishing in the med from Sailingeurope.
  7. Respect the beaches, seabed and coral reefs during the sailing experience. Do not take any natural “souvenirs”.
  8. Do not use single-use plastics (like straws, disposable plates, coffee cups, etc.). Even if you are careful, the chance of them ending up in the water is still very big.
  9. Start the discussion in the marinas that you visit. This is also a call to action for all the marinas and ports out there that read this. Please offer a proper waste system, so that all waste that is brought back from the sea, does not end up in the sea again. Also human waste can damage the eco-system when there is a lot of it concentrated in one area, like in bays or in mooring fields. A proper and easy to use black water system in the marinas will avoid that the waste is dumped close to shore. Especially during summertime.
  10. Sometimes the less obvious makes sense as well. Example, did you know that Hawaï is taking measures against the use of specific sun screens? Read this Sun Screen is killing Coral Reefs in Hawai and remember it when buying your sunscreen.
  11. Would love to hear from you if you have more advice!

No sailing trip planned but want to help?

And for those of you who want to put the hands where the mouth is even if you are not on a sail boat soon:

  1. Start in the canals of Amsterdam with Plastic Whale
  2. Board the tall ship Windseeker
  3. Keep reading and sharing article about this topic. We would much appreciate it.

Thank you for reading this blog. Any advice, comment or feedback is very welcome. And remember this simple challenge:

Leave the spots you visit in a better shape than you found them

Moorspots 2019

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